Tom Baker, OAM

FROM being labelled a "ratbag" to receiving an Order of Australia medal, Queanbeyan's Tom Baker said attitudes towards environmentalists like himself are certainly changing.

Mr Baker has spent more than 30 years working to improve the local environment and that was recognised this week in the form of an Order of Australia medal.

The 64-year-old said it was great to be recognised for his work but also to have the award acknowledge the importance of the environment. The inclusion on the Queen's Honours List came as a surprise for the former-public servant who also he celebrated his birthday at the weekend.

"It's nice to see an award go to environment work because I think it's only been in recent years that it's been recognised by the community," Mr Baker said.

"In the old days many people thought we were ratbags, do-gooders, but that attitude is changing now.

"We're all a part of the environment and rely on it, not only for food and shelter but our more psychological needs."

Mr Baker has dedicated more than 30 years to improving the environment especially through his voluntarily work.

Among his achievements is being a foundation member and current publicity officer for Queanbeyan Landcare and former-president and vice president of the Molonglo Catchment Group since 2003.

He was also involved in establishing the "Along the Molonglo" art exhibitions, secretary for Upper Murrumbidgee Landcare until 2010 and was a member of the Kosciuszko to Coast for many years.

Mr Baker has spent the last 16 years as host of Radio Landcare on QbnFM and as member of the Queanbeyan City Council Environment Advisory Committee.

The semi-retiree puts his passion for the environment down to his upbringing in Tumut.

"When you're young, you spend time outdoors fishing or walking, even gardening. I've always had an interest in gardening and I think that leads to an interest in the environment," he said.

"You're dealing with water, soil, plants and air quality, they're all connected."

Mr Baker encouraged those interested in the environment or wanting to make a difference to look up their local land care group. Activities can varying from tree planting to keeping an eye on local wildlife numbers like platypus.

"We don't just plant trees and control weeds, we do lots of other things," he said.

"We try and influence decision making in local government and other levels of government. We try and have an impact on development proposals, roads and encourage new bike paths."

The revitalisation of Buttles Creek is one of the group's latest projects. Located on Wanniassa Street behind McDonald's and KFC, it was used as a dumping ground for decades. Rubbish has been removed from the area with native species being planted on cleared areas.

"We took an interest in Buttles Creek over the last five years, council have joined us now. This used to be a derelict site, it was terrible and now council have put in a proper bike path and a car park," he said.

"We're going to put in comfortable chairs and a walking track in."

Queanbeyan Landcare will be planting trees at Buttles Creek as part of National Tree Day on Sunday, July 27 from 9.30am. Meet at Buttles Creek (Wanniassa Street opposite KFC) and bring bucket, trowel or small mattock, garden gloves, appropriate clothing and foot wear.

Related story: OAM recipient "delighted"

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